OK, first thing: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Robert Downey Jr. is set to make, once box office bonuses and back-end compensation is tallied, in the vicinity of $50 million for his role as Iron Man/genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark in The Avengers. $50 million! For one movie! That's so much money! How is that possible?! Glad you asked.
Explains THR, "When Marvel’s Iron Man grossed a surprising $585 million worldwide in 2008, Downey’s reps at CAA and the Hansen Jacobson law firm renegotiated a deal to include what multiple sources say is a slice of Marvel’s revenue from future movies in which he plays Iron Man (one source puts it in the 5 percent to 7 percent range; another source disputes the percentage. Marvel and Downey’s reps declined comment)." Then, once Downey Jr. got Marvel's people to break open the bank, the studio put the foot down going forward. That means Downey's co-stars are getting one-shot, human-size movie-star paychecks for the ensemble flick: "Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo all signed on for small upfront fees and ultimately will make about $2 million to $3 million on Avengers with bonuses. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, who signed deals to pop up in several Marvel movies, are said to be making about twice that for Avengers with bonuses." And as the Avengers box office keeps on rising — it's now officially over a billion, and on pace to become the fourth-highest-grossing movie of all time — Downey Jr.'s personal share continues to make his superhero pals' paychecks look paltry and miserable.
So, yes, $50 million is a crazy amount of money. It's more money than we peons can even begin to wrap our heads around, really. But, in the scheme of all-time blockbusters ... maybe RDJ earned his keep? Look, Iron Man not only — SPOILER ALERT — saved the world at the end by selflessly flying a nuclear bomb into the space portal, he also had all the best lines. (And his shawarma advocacy is now boosting business for local L.A. shawarma eateries.) Not that Thor and Black Widow and the Hulk and everyone else weren't great, too. OK, look, people, if it were up to me, you'd all get $50 million a pop. Seriously, great job on Avengers, guys. Great, great work.